Chinese tennis starting to see benefits of commitment with a new star emerging - UBITENNIS
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Chinese tennis starting to see benefits of commitment with a new star emerging

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Li Na’s tennis successor is quickly appearing in the form of Wibing Yu. (Zimbio.com)

Most people who have followed tennis over the last decade are aware of Li Na. The superstar drove tennis in China to new heights when she won the 2011 French Open and then the 2014 Australian Open.

 

Since Na’s retirement in 2014, Chinese tennis has had to wait for a new superstar. Whilst heavy financial investment in sports such as football has quickly been able to attract star players to the new-found wealth of teams in Shanghai and Beijing, building a tennis legacy has taken more time.

Wibing Yu appears to be on the cusp of coming into the mainstream as China’s new hope in the men’s game. The 17 year-old came to wider attention when he won the US Open Junior Singles and Doubles titles earlier this year. Yet it was just this past week with his stunning run to the Shanghai Challenger title that adds more weight to the argument that China will soon be able to compete in a sport that has been largely dominated by players from Europe, The Americas, and Australia, and, more recently, China’s regional rivals, South Korea and Japan.

Players from China have won Challenger titles before. Indeed, Yu is not the only Chinese player to win a title at this level even this season. Ze Zhang picked up his first title at this level in San Francisco in February, whilst Di Wu, also won a title in January 2016. Yet for all their successes, (Zhang has a tour-level win over former Grand Slam semi-finalist Richard Gasquet,) they are both seen as journeymen players who have not quite been capable of carrying the weight of expectation that China is now developing. Neither have been ranked in the Top 100, though both are solidly ranked inside the Top 200.

This is where Yu comes in. At 17 and the Junior No.1, there was cautious optimism that he might make the grade. Now, with a high-level professional Challenger title under his belt, the case for his star potential is slowly but surely gaining more traction. Consider that Yu having won a junior Grand Slam and a Challenger title in the same season puts him in some exclusive and esteemed company. Amongst players in the last five years to have won a junior Grand Slam and a Challenger title are Top 10 star Alexander Zverev, Australia’s Nick Kyrgios, and the USA’s Taylor Fritz. All three are Top 100 players, with Zverev and Kyrgios now inside the Top 30.

Tennis may encourage, even require countries to develop their own players to represent them, unlike sports including football where international stars can be convinced to play for Chinese clubs for financial reasons. This does not mean that China has not looked abroad for help. Di Wu is now coached by two-time ATP title winner Davide Sanguinetti, and Yu is coached by Yahum Garcia Sanchez, adding a distinctly European feel to the coaching set-up.

Boris Becker has made a significant commitment to Chinese tennis by opening an academy in Shenzhen (Zimbio.com)

China is not only committed to supplying their existing players with high-profile support. In 2016, former Wimbledon Champion and World No.1 Boris Becker opened his Becker Academy in Shenzhen, site of a Chinese professional tour event.

Becker: “Clearly there is tremendous talent and potential among young tennis players in China.

China appears to be putting significant grassroots down to build for the tennis future. Li Na’s legacy is already appearing in the form of Wibing Yu, and he is likely just the first in a number of Chinese players set to appear in the higher reaches of the game in the coming years.

Becker: “This is the biggest country in the world, but no male players in the top 100 – we’re about to change this.

Becker’s assertion looks set to quickly become a reality if Yu’s recent progress is continued.

 

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Jelena Ostapenko lifts her first title since 2017 in Luxembourg

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Jelena Ostapenko claimed her first title since 2017 after beating defending champion and number 2 seed Julia Goerges 6-4 6-1 in the final at the BGL BNP Paribas Luxembourg Open.

 

Ostapenko made her come-back last week by reaching the final in Linz last week. This week she lifted her third career title and her first trophy since Linz in September 2017 in the same year when she won her maiden Grand Slam title at Roland Garros. Ostapenko has been working with former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli during the past two weeks. The work with the former French star is reaping its fruits, as Ostapenko has scored 9 wins in 10 matches in the past two tournaments.

In the Luxembourg final the Latvian player hit six aces and won 83 % of her first serve points. Ostapenko earned her first break point in the opening game of the match. Goerges hit an ace to save a break point before holding her serve. Both players held their serve until 4-4. Ostapenko earned a double break in the ninth game. Goerges saved the first chance with a serve. Ostapenko sealed her second opportunity to take a 5-4 lead, as Ostapenko hit a forehand long. Ostapenko earned three set points with her fifth ace. She converted her first chance, as her serve was returned wide by Goerges.

Goerges held at love in the first game of the second set. Ostapenko broke twice in a row to race out to a 5-1 lead. Goerges saved the first match point with a strong serve. Ostapenko earned her second match point, as Goerges made two unforced errors, and sealed the win when the German made her double fault.

“Of course it’s great to finish the season with winning a title. I enjoyed this week so much, and I think I played really well today. I just like to finish the year this way”, said Ostapenko.

 

 

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Belinda Bencic claims the fourth title of her career with a three-set win over Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova in Moscow

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Belinda Bencic claimed the fourth WTA Premier title of her career with a 3-6 6-1 6-1 win over Anastasya Pavlychenkova after 1 hour and 43 minutes in the final of the VTB Kremlin Cup in Moscow.

 

Number 3 seed Belinda Bencic clinched her second WTA Tour title of the 2019 season one day after securing her spot for the WTA Finals in Shenzhen by beating Kristina Mladenovic in the semifinal. Last February the Swiss player lifted the trophy in Dubai.

Bencic beat Pavlyuchenkova for the fourth time in their five head-to-head matches.

In the first set Pavlyuchenkova saved two break points before earning an early break in the opening game. The Russian player closed out the first set with another break at 5-3 after a double fault from Bencic.

Bencic bounced back by getting an early break at the start of the second set. The Swiss player went up a double break to race out to a 5-1 lead forcing the match to the third set.

Bencic cruised through to a 5-0 lead with two consecutive breaks in the second and fourth games and closed out the third set 6-1 with a service winner in the seventh game.

Bencic was not initially entered in the WTA Premier tournament in Moscow and received a wildcard. During this week Bencic beat Polona Hercog and three former top 20 players Kirsten Flipkens, Kristina Mladenovic and Anastasya Pavlyuchenova

“It feels unbelievable right now. I still can’t imagine. I had no pressure going into the match. We were so happy yesterday, celebrating Shenzhen and this is the cherry on the top. This will take a special place in my heart, because here I qualified for the WTA Finals”, said Bencic.

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Andrey Rublev lifts his first title in Moscow on his 22nd birthday

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Local star Andrey Rublev cruised past Adrian Mannarino 6-4 6-0 in the final of the VTB Kremlin Cup in Moscow on his 22nd birthday in his home city.

 

Rublev claimed the second title of his career becoming the ninth Russian player to win the Moscow title in the history of this tournament. Before this year’s edition he had not won a match in his six previous attempts at the Moscow tournament

He will move up to the top 25 in the ATP Ranking for the first time in his career after a successful second half of the season in which he won 19 of his past 25 matches. The highlights of his season include the final in Hamburg, the quarter finals in Cincinnati (where he lost to Danil Medvedev), Winston Salem and St. Petersburg, the fourth round at the US Open (where he lost by semifinalist Matteo Berrettini) and the third round in Shanghai.

Rublev earned his first break in the first game after drawing a forehand error from Mannarino. The 22-year-old home player held on his next service games to claim the first set 6-4.

Rublev dropped just three points and broke serve three times in a one-sided second set. He earned three championhips points. Mannarino, who had not lost a set this week, saved the first two match points, but Rublev converted his third chance after 63 minutes.

 “I am at a loss. I can’t find the right words for what it means to me to win here. I grew up with this tournament. I spent my childhood at the VTB Kremlin Cup. I will remember this tournament and this win for many years, and I will hopefully be playing this tournament for many years down the road”, said Andrey Rublev.

Rublev has no time to rest on his laurels, as he will play against Felix Auger Aliassime in his opening match at the Erste Bank Open in Vienna next week.

Mannarino has continued his good period of form in the second half of the season in which he won the title at s’Hertogenbosh and reached the final in Zhuhai.

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